Monday, May 26, 2008

John Wesley Hardin vs. Charles Webb Gunfight

Today marks the anniversary of the John Wesley Hardin vs. Charles Webb gunfight (May 26, 1874). The following are edited clips of a documentary on John Wesley Hardin. I edited it to deal just with the parts regarding this gunfight. The video is good, but like most documentaries it had to leave out a lot

(EDIT: I took down the video mid-2010. Look for the Gunfighters series on DVD)

I am not a very good story writer since I tend to be very analytical in my writing. The gunfight has been covered a lot of times. I will list my favorite sources below for it. They explain it way better than I can. Let me just cover some of the issues not mentioned in the video.

One thing of importance that is rarely mentioned in popular stories about the gunfight is the issue of John’s brother, Joe Hardin. Joe came to the small town of Comanche in Texas in the early 1870’s. He had made a name for himself in the community and established himself in such a way that the rest of his extended family came to live there.

Many at the time did not realize, or at least did not come out publicly at the time, that Joe was doing illegal land deals for profit. By creating phoney documents he would “sale” land between different people. A typical deal might start with papers that were to show that land was owned by someone years earlier, then be sold to another person, then sold to another person, sold to a friend or relative of Joe, and back and forth. The paper trail would be such a confusing mess that if someone tried to verify the sources it would be too much trouble, and they would probably give up. Joe’s land scheme would come out much later. He not only did this with land, but with cattle as well.

Meanwhile, John Wesley Hardin had been preparing a herd of cattle for Kansas. Jim Taylor, a friend and ally in the Sutton-Taylor feud, decided to come along since he had just killed Bill Sutton a few months prior. It was a way he could stay out of trouble since he was being looked for in the Dewitt County area. Hardin had given the order to some of his men to take the herd north. He, Jim, and a few others would meet them on the way.

Hardin took off to Comanche to visit his dad, mom, and the rest of his family. A second herd was being worked out in Comanche. This was going to be the real problem and cause of the gunfight. This was a typical deal Joe Hardin had worked out with his phony paperwork. The disputed cattle were in nearby Brown County. Brown County cattlemen were already concerned and discussed the issue with the local law enforcement. It was decided that former Texas Ranger, and now deputy sheriff, Charles Webb would now be on the case.

The herd was in litigation, but John and his men forced the issue and took them. Webb, realizing that local cattle rustler’s Jim Buck Waldrip and James Beard were probably involved, arrested them. John, Joe Hardin, and the rest of their men ate dinner at the ranch of Jim Buck Waldrip. Mrs. Waldrip, complained over the Webb arrest. A crucial point was made later on in the trail against Hardin later that it was here a conspiracy was made to kill Webb. Joe Hardin was alleged to have something like, “When the time comes we will take care of him (Webb).”

On John’s 21st birthday there was a major celebration in the town. There was a festival, with the saloons running wild, and a race track going with horse races. John and his men did very well in the horse racing and won a lot of money. They spent the evening doing rounds at two saloons. It was at Jack Wright’s saloon that the local Sheriff Carnes and others like Jim Taylor were concerned about John because he had had too much to drink. Like most gunfighters, the more drink they had the better chances bad things would happen.

John could be very obnoxious when drunk. This would be another factor for what was about to go down. Charles Webb had been at the celebration. He was seen in the distance approaching the saloon.

John claims that he had never met Charles Webb before. If, and that is a big if, he had not met Webb before this confrontation, it does appear that he was probably pointed out to John during the celebration. There are some claims that John and his men had met Webb before and cursed him in Brown County.

In any case, Webb approached and John confronted him. He asked Webb if he had the papers to arrest him. Webb denied this. There was an exchange back and forth with John being verbally aggressive while Webb being rather soft and calm. A friend of Webb, seeing what was about to happen, called over to Webb since they were to eat dinner together. John held Webb and said something to the effect of, “Your not just going to leave me here are you?”

The next bit of dialogue has Webb saying that he was "not afraid" of John. It seems that some dialogue is missing in the accounts here because John said something accusing Webb of being a coward. At least that is what I get out of his response of not being afraid.

At this point, both John and Webb both go for their guns. Some say that Webb drew first, but both men seem to fire at about the same time. Webb grazes John's side, but John hits Webb in the left cheek. Jim Taylor and Bud Dixon (John's cousin) start firing their guns to finish the job.

Within minutes a crowd of angry residents appear at near the saloon. John surrenders his gun to Sheriff John Carnes. Carnes attempts to protect John and company from the mob who want to hang them. John, along with his men, slip out the side door and take off.

This killing marked the end for John Wesley Hardin and his gang. In the following days a massive manhunt started with posses and Texas Rangers. Joe Hardin, Tom and Bud Dixon would be placed under arrest only to be hanged by a hooded mob. Two other cousins, Ham Anderson and Alexander Barekman were killed after they decided to leave John. Other members of his gang would eventually be lynched. A few years later, after leaving Texas for Florida, John was captured and sent to prison.

What is interesting to me is the aftermath of the gunfight. The town of Comanche was hysterical over what they thought John might do. There were rumors he would come back and burn the town to the ground over the hanging of Joe Hardin.

Mollie Godbold's two part article is my favorite reading of how this all went down. She really gives a good account of the fear of all the people involved.

Godbold, Mollie Moore. "Comanche and the Hardin Gang," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, June and July, 1963. 
Hardin, John Wesley. The Life of John Wesley Hardin. Norman; University of Oklahoma, 1961.
Marohn, Richard C. The Last Gunfighter: John Wesley Hardin. College Station, TX; Creative Publishing Co., 1995.
Metz, Leon. John Wesley Hardin: Dark Angel of Texas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.

Alright, my last few blogs have been a bit lengthy, but, believe me, I really abbreviated a lot. I will go back to shorter location hunting blogs at the beginning of June. Until then...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reconstruction and John Wesley Hardin

The area I spend a lot of time reading about is the time period right after the U.S. Civil War. The Reconstruction period where the former rebel states come back into the Union I find even more interesting than the Civil War itself. Part of the reason for this is that in some ways the war was still going on. Some people refer to this period that started in 1865-1877 has the Second Civil War.

In any war there really are two main phases. There is the invasion phase where one side tries to conquer and occupy the other. If the side that is being attacked defends itself then the invasion side is defeated and the war may stop. Or, the defensive side can continue the war by then becoming the invasion side, and the roles then reverse.

The second phase is the occupation phase. This may or may not be a peaceful time. If the victorious side intends to keep the land conquered, it tries to assimilate the conquered people into society. This is typical of the days of empires. On the other hand, if the goal is just to get a country working again under new conditions then the occupation phase is meant to be temporary. In a sense, it really is not a war compared to the first phase because the major war operations have stopped. However, guerrilla warfare consisting of ambushes might take place by groups of conquered people at this time.

A lot of the issues we face today have patterns seen in the past. It is one of those reasons history is studied because history tends to repeat itself. We know that after WWI, Germany was really punished and left to start itself up from scratch. The country was not helped build itself back up and went through a depression. Part of the reason Hitler rose to power was because of this. This is a part of the reason that there is major concern about how the situation in Iraq is handed.

A lot of the same issues that are going on in Iraq occurred during Reconstruction. I can not speak for everyone’s education in this area, but I suspect so much emphasis is put on the actual leading to and actual fighting of the U.S. Civil War that Reconstruction tends not to be seen as important. The idea may be that southern states just had to ratify a few new amendments and approve a new state constitution and they were back in. The areas I spend the most time reading about show that it was really a bloody mess. When it was all said and done, the south ending up winning the war of reconstruction.

The U.S. Civil War, the war itself, and Reconstruction are probably the most controversial issues in U.S. History. Issues of the authority of the federal government vs. the state’s rights, issues regarding race rights and relations were still strong issues up to the 1960’s. Of course, some would say those are still major issues today.

I do read the governmental history of the time period starting with Lincoln, to Johnson, to Grant, and then to Hayes. As an aside, it turns out Rutherford B. Hayes is my fourth cousin. What I like to do when I read history is read about the real top down history which usually deals with the government policies, but I also like to read stuff during the same period that is from the bottom up. The grassroot perspective. This is looking at the common persons issues on the field and not in some committee.

My favorite person to read about during this period is outlaw John Wesley Hardin. I have mentioned him before in a prior entry, but during his time in El Paso he was really on the downside of his life. In the overall study of history he is not that important, but what I find is that studying his life and relating it to the big picture of Reconstruction history it actually makes a lot of sense.

I am just going to abbreviate here how things worked out, but his life is fun to follow from the years 1865-1877. In my view, the first of three phases starts when Hardin was a young boy through the Civil War, but more importantly through the next few years after the war when he started killing. In Texas there was a lot of resentment over losing the war. Some guys, like Bob Lee in the north eastern part of Texas claimed they never surrendered creating what was known at the Lee-Peacock feud. From 1865-1870 the military occupied Texas. They were to keep the peace, but also allow elections to be held to get the state government going again.

Hardin started killing by shooting a former slave called Mage. In his autobiography he claims to have killed some military soldiers not too long after. He claims to have done this in the name of the lost cause which was the way of justifying the loss of the Civil War, but at the same time resisting the abusive north.

Once Republican Edmund Davis became governor in 1870 and Texas became part of the union again, the military left the state. This started the next phase of Hardin’s life. Gov. Davis introduced the state police which were to take care of all the crime in Texas. Under captains, like Jack Helm, the state police started sweeping the state looking for outlaws. An important point to make is that a good percentage of the new policemen were black. This was quite a shock since many of them were former slaves which had a new superior authority. The state police was obviously controversial. A lot of Texans saw them as abusive, undisciplined, and corrupt.

During this phase with Gov. Davis in power Hardin not only fought against and killed many state policemen, but he was introduced to the Sutton-Taylor Feud or the Dewitt County War. I mentioned this some blog entries back when I was talking about opposing viewpoints, but James Smallwood argues in his new book that what was really happening here was the Taylor’s were really criminal gang that were continuing the fight against the Union, in other words, the second civil war. In any case, the Hardin-Taylor gang became well known as is the high point of Hardin’s outlaw career.

Gov. Davis and the State Police only lasted a few years. Like most republicans that were put into power in the south, their reign as leaders was quite short. Once the democrats were put back into power, things for the outlaws changed. For quite some time many Texans put up with and encouraged crime and outlaws since it was against the dreaded rule of the north. A lot of the outlaws were looked at as the good guys and the northern Yankees were the bad guys. With the Yankees and republicans out of the way this would change.

So, by the end of 1873, Hardin did not realize this, and he had no way of knowing this, his reign of power, so to speak, was coming to and end. A great victory took place in the feud where Bill Sutton was killed by Jim Taylor in the early months of 1874. Then in May of 1874, Hardin ended up killing the wrong man on his 21st birthday. This killing was his major downfall and created the biggest manhunt for Texas at that time. My next entry will cover this event. In my view, the killing of Webb began the third phase of his life during Reconstruction.

After leaving Texas he went to Florida, and during the presidency of Hayes, he was caught and sent to prison. This was in August of 1877 right as Reconstruction had really ended with the compromise that put Hayes into power as president.

As I said, even with all of this, I had to abbreviate a lot because it is a very complicated area. I like it because it really goes into that area of the old west I like, but is important in understanding U.S. history from the top down and the bottom up. I will continue with the crucial gunfight next time.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thou Shall Not Kill

When I was about ten years old my grandfather introduced me to a BB gun. He gave me this long lecture on the rules and dangers about using guns before I could shoot this "toy" gun. He took me out and we spent some time shooting cans as targets. I would say about a half hour later a bird flew onto a telephone line. He motioned to me to line up a aim for it. I went and did it. I hesitated since I knew I would only get one shot, but my aim was true. Down the black bird came. My grandfather was shocked since he did not seriously think I would hit it.

I was really excited about it and wanted to tell my mom and grandma about how good my aim was. Later that evening I started to feel really bad about what I had done. I knew it was an animal, and a lot of what I ate was taken from dead animals. Still, something really bothered me about taking the life of something that way. It had not done anything to me, and I deprived it of living out its life.

When it comes to humans killing other humans there are two parts to it like what I described above, but obviously at a much higher level morally speaking. One is actually being able to do whatever is physically necessary to take the life out of another human. Be it pulling a trigger, pushing a button, using a weapon, striking someone, etc. Then the second part of it is living with what one has done. This is usually described as "having a conscience" which is the guilt one has to live with over doing the act.

One would think that those two issues are easy to overcome due to all the violence one sees on television and in movies. In fact, most of the population seems to think that it is very easy to become a professional soldier that can deal death to anyone at a moment's notice. This is not the case.

Just about everything I am going to say now comes from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. When I read this book much of it came as a relief to me. Everyone has bouts of anger, frustration, and to some extent violence in them, but it seems like in the everyday news, TV, and movies this is the norm regarding humans. This book was rather helpful in helping understand some issues we seem to understand intuitively about ourselves and morality.

Grossman starts out with showing there is a lot of posturing done in fighting and war. This is almost always harmless and is like sticking the chest out to intimidate. Someone may fire a weapon with no intention of causing injury only to scare off the individual from fighting. This is part of the bluff. If it continues then it becomes a case of fight or flight. If the fight occurs then is usually ends in submission and is usually never to the death.

Grossman goes through a lot of examples in military history and shows that up to the Vietnam War only about 15-20% of all soldiers on the front lines actually took part in the actual fighting. Most of the other soldiers could not do it and found ways to support the 15-20% group. He spends most of the book leading to why Vietnam was different, and this had to do with the training the soldiers received. Up until Vietnam one drilled by firing at targets, but once we entered the 1960's new ways were created to have human like targets used to desensitize soldiers so they shot at these new targets instinctively. Then the rate of soldiers actively fighting using their weapons became over 80%. The tragedy became that they could actually do the physical technique of killing, but the conscience and guilt of it became a lot more problematic.

He shows that the average soldier can only handle about 60 days of combat. This is about 98% of all soldiers. There is the 2% that has the aggressive psychopath personality. That 2% does not mean they have the mentality of a serial killer, but just means they have either learned to overcome these feelings of conscience or are born that way. For the 98%, they will eventually hit fatigue, become confused, hysterical, obsessive, or develop other personality disorders.

The biggest fear a soldier has is letting down his fellow soldiers. What I have read about Audie Murphy was much like this. He was haunted not by those he killed, but those fellow soldiers that he knew killed on the battlefield. The thing that is interesting that Grossman states is it is not uncommon for someone rather he die himself than kill a fellow human being. Self-preservation is not as important as we may think in this area. The thought of seeing the pain on someone's face when you pull a gun and shoot can be really tramatic. It is really difficult to deny someone's humanity; there is something in us that tells us this is wrong. This is why I am convinced that if someone like Osama Bin Laden was found and locked in a room with someone with a weapon who lost a love one on 9/11/01 he would probably come out of the encounter alive. A good portion of the population, no matter how evil a person is, could not do the act of killing no matter how justified it maybe.

Grossman covers a lot of other areas I have not mentioned. Enemies must be dehumanized by showing they are inferior forms of life, that there has been a great evil to be morally avenged, etc. An emotional distance must be created. He shows that there are degrees to the "easiness" of killing depending on the range. That would be from dropping bombs from planes, to artillery, to grenade range. In those cases you do not see the faces of your enemy. On the other hand at closer ranges this changes. With guns all the way to hand to hand combat it becomes more certain of who is responsibly with the killing. He points out that shooting someone in the back is much easier to do that from the front. Seeing someone's eyes (the window to the soul) changes things dramatically.

One final thing in his chapter on atrocities is that most know that it is not a good idea to kill POW's. This is because you want to encourage the enemy in surrendering. Otherwise they will fight until the death because they know they have little to live for. This is why it is important to give your enemies a sense of hope and not treat them so badly. That is what I take out of this in that you want to give them a way out rather than force them into a corner where they have little hope and just want to fight more.

I wanted to bring this issue up as a reminder about the realities of violence. It is not an easy thing to do, and when it is done causes a lot of grief. This is something that is a part of human nature. It is the same for us as for anyone in the past. Keep this in mind when you watch a movie or when I am talking about some old west gunfighter.

Grossman, D., On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. Little, Brown and Co.: 1995.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

May 13, 2008 = WESTERN DVD DAY

I will get back to uploading more movie location videos in June. It will probably be a slower pace than my recent onslaught which was doing a video every 2-3 days. If all goes well I will probably go back to weekly uploads and have something interesting for most of the summer.

It seems like once a year in May a bunch of western dvd's come out. Today is the day for the following:

From Fox:
The Big Trail (2-Disc Version with the full and wide-screen version)
The Gunfighter
Garden of Evil

From MGM/Fox:
Day of the Outlaw
Gunfight at Dodge City
Man of the West
Man With the Gun
Navajo Joe
The Way West
The Westerner

I have most of these on dvd-r so I will probably not rush out and buy these right away. My favorites being Man with the Gun, The Gunfighter, Rawhide, Day of the Outlaw, and Man of the West. Just an FYI, DeepDiscountDvd usually has a sale at the end of May to the beginning of June where they discount all their dvd's and you get free shipping. They usually have a code you type in when you purchase. It is a good sale and is probably when I will purchase these.

It turns out August 26, 2008 will be a great day for releases. I know How the West Was Won will have a good rerelease and The Law and Jake Wade will have a release.

Speaking of The Law and Jake Wade, one of the videos I will eventually do will have the location that the ghost town was at. There is nothing there now since the town props were taken down, but you can see the area. It is the same situation with Bad Day at Black Rock.

In my next entry later this week I want to talk about violence.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Objectivity and Human Nature

This is a follow up of my last few entries where I have been talking about how I deal with opposing viewpoints, etc. I am just setting the groundwork for how I approach a lot of everyday life issues and how I go about understanding history.

One of the guys I debated years back had a real hang up towards the word objective. Meaning, real apart from one’s mind. He was convinced the area of science was the only real area of objectivity. So, just about any other area be it history, religion and morality was subjective. Meaning, only existing in one’s mind.

I am not going to rehash how I responded to him, but there is a philosophical or logical trap one can get into by thinking like that. It has to do with making the statement, “X is subjective.” The statement is either true or false. If it is false, then we know “X is not subjective,” after all. On the other hand, if it is true then it self-destructs because it is making an objective statement about “X.” It is like someone saying, “I can’t utter a word in English.” Well, they just did. How about, “There is no truth.” Great, now we have a truth that says, “There is no truth.”

The same can be said with something like, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Someone may say that, but they usually have an idea in their head what they think Beauty is. Same with people that dispute academy award movies. The debate is going to be on what criteria is used to judge whether something is beautiful, or which movie is the best. It is the same with history too.

As far as history is concerned, and related to my last entry on opposing viewpoints, the key to being objective is how one goes about getting and presenting their information. Objectivity, in this sense, is having a rationally informed opinion by considering other points of view besides your own. By considering and acknowledging what others say prevents bias on the topic.

Again, like I mentioned in the opposing viewpoints entry, when I talk about controversial subjects I will try to provide the best sources on the issue. This may not always be successful, but that is what I attempt to do.

I wanted to say something else about how I view human nature because it does relate to what I was just talking about. I think humans, although they have great ideals and conscience in them, tend to be very selfish creatures. The first thing we do in the morning when we get up, through the day, until we go to bed is we think of ourselves. We may try to help others and do great acts in the process for our fellow humans, but we tend to think of ourselves before anyone else. If someone said I could go off to any 3rd world country I wanted to in order to help my fellow humans I would, but then the next question might be where am I going to live, or will I have enough food to get me through it. That might deter me from the trip.

I wanted to bring this up because there are a bunch of historical areas I examine where they are a lot of different types of people. Many are considered “Heroes” and other might be considered “Villains.” In Old West history, this usually comes up. It can always be disappointing to find out someone that some considered heroic turns out not be heroic all the time. On the other hand, some guys considered evil may actually do some charitable act or put there life on the line for someone.

I like to come back to human nature on that. I do not expect everyone to live black and white lives like this. All people have their own failings, temptations, addictions, etc. they have to deal with. If some source I read says a person did an act that they normally would not do, then unless I have reason to believe otherwise, I assume they did what they would not normally do. I do not come in with a bias assuming they can or can not have done something based on their previous behavior. This is the hang up a lot of people have who have studied Wyatt Earp have gotten into. Let the guy be human like the rest of us and do not worry about it.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Finally Saw Iron Man (and an update on the movie's locations)

My latest location from the new Iron Man movie is linked below.

When I was younger I really enjoyed comics, animated stories, and movies about DC and Marvel comics. At one point I was really into Batman, but over the years it was so overdone, and some of the movies were just downright bad that I burned out of it. I did some reading of Iron Man, but was never truly into that character. Honestly, most comic book movies that come out these days I usually pass up. I might see them on cable at some point and watch parts of them, but I can't remember anything I have watched from start to finish. I probably would have passed on this one too if the Alabama Hills were not in it.

I saw it earlier today. Overall, it was a real fun movie and well done. The only concern I had with something like this is if the action would be overdone. I had read that there is an explosion every twenty minutes. I do not know if that is the case or not, but I did not feel like I was overwhelmed with action at the expense of the story. There was a good balance in all of what they did. I think when they do the sequels they have set up a good foundation to work with so they can improve on what they did here.

I am glad to see that Robert Downey Jr. pulled this off and will create a following with this. Hopefully, he can keep himself in check for other roles.

The Alabama Hills locations turned out pretty much like I thought it would. They do not last too long in the movie. In fact, be sure you are there when the movie starts to see the part I refer to in my link below or you will miss it. What I have shown in the two videos I have done pretty much covers the major scenes there.

The airport scene looks like it was just done in Lone Pine. There is an airport right as you come into town heading north on the right. It is across from Anchor Ranch.

The "cave location" is an interesting one that I am not 100% about the location, but is on a road just outside of Keeler. Iron Man is shown flying out of the area on what would be the Inyo Mountains which is the mountain range to the east of the 395 HWY. I always like pictures from this way because Mount Langley looks really huge from this angle compared to the others. Give me a few months and I'll see if I can get an exact location.

The thing with a movie like this is the editing is very quick and they do not always show you everything around the area. So, the "cave" and some other scenes might take a bit of work if I want to try to figure them out. Although I am crazy enough to tell you that there is about one second where one of the villians is in a truck later in the movie that is on movie road. It is near what I am calling the Iron Man Ambush Location. That is just my intuition of the area kicking in after seeing a split second of where they were. It seemed to me they cut out a lot of the action during the ambush that we saw in the trailer. That is slightly disappointing, but maybe they will show more on the dvd release. It seemed like a lot more of that area was used in the trailer.

The sandy desert area is just outside the town of Olancha. There is a tradition of movies that want to look like they were filmed in the Sahara Desert come here to film. Even Hopalong Cassidy went "overseas" to this desert here in one of his films.

Regardless of the locations used, it was still a fun movie that I am glad to have seen. I do think it was a lot more adult than some other comic book movies I have seen. I await the dvd after the summer.

Okay, to see my latest video, which I may take down and redo at a later time with better conditions go here:

The Iron Man Ambush Location

For the old video I made back in October that, I guess, holds up pretty well after seeing the whole scene go here:

The Jericho Missle Launch Site (Originally, based on the movie trailer)

Be sure to stay after the credits of the movie to see an additional scene that sets up the sequels.